My lovely wife Laura drives a 2001 Honda Civic with 155,000 miles on it.
It's been a great little car. It gets 40+ mpg on the highway, runs well, and only once over the entire fourteen years she's owned it have we had to take it in for mechanical repairs.
Recently we were discussing this car. Laura was wondering, reasonably, whether it was time to replace it, when she would do so, what kind of car the next one would be, and so on. Granted, no car lasts forever, and after a certain age, any car can become more trouble than it's worth. But then again, it's running well, we have a backup car, and Laura has a paltry ten minute commute. In theory, we could continue driving her Civic for years.
But there's a far more important reason to keep this little old car, and that's the point of this post. I told Laura, "you're doing your coworkers and the staff in your office a big favor by continuing to drive that car. You're the doctor in your office and the staff there look up to you. You have no idea how significant it can be to see a successful person make a conscious choice to drive an older, non-flashy car. It sets an example where they can do the same and not feel self-conscious about it."
Apparently when I talk I can't follow the dictum omit needless words. So let's boil it down to one sentence: Driving an older car is one way to reduce the level of status competition in the world.
Now, obviously, Casual Kitchen readers already know status competition is a waste of time and money. What many people don't realize, however, is that status competition is also unethical.
Why unethical? Because the things you buy impact the consumption environment of everyone around you. Think of every flashy purchase as having a sort of blast radius. And the people around you--your friends, family, colleagues--are in that blast radius, and their status competition bar goes higher with every flashy purchase you make.
In other words, when we buy flashy things we don't just feed our own status competition urges. We feed everyone else's too.
Are we doing our friends, family and colleagues a favor when we do this? Is this in any way kind or generous? Readers, what do you think?
NOTE: Be sure to see the follow-up post to this article: A False Referent.
Read Next: To Kill a Good Idea
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